Single post

Oct. 15, Tuesday: Vence & St. Paul de Vence.

Here I am on Wednesday morning, back in Starbucks at 8:30 promptly, to grab my corner table with the plug in. Yesterday, Tuesday, Oct. 15, was a big day. First, I got up early so that I could get to La Lorraine at 7 a.m. for my 2 cafe cremes and one croissant and to write my Sunday blog post and do my emailing. I had to get it done early so that I could make it to the 9:10 #400 bus to Vence. Well, believe it or not, I finished and got to the bus stop early, so I took the 8:50 #94 bus and arrived in Vence at 9:45 – about 50 minutes. The bus was almost empty, no more than about 8 people at any one time, people getting on and off at various stops. Taking the bus is still a bit nerve wracking for me, I hate to admit. I just don’t have a lot of experience with public transportation, preferring to walk everywhere (no matter how tired my legs get) so that I can discover things along the way. But this trip was way too far for that! Add to that my limited French and my experience that the bus drivers here are not too friendly and rather curt (a broad generalization, yes), so I can ask for help, but it is difficult to understand, since not all of them speak English, and they tend to not want to be bothered. I can’t blame them though, all the tourists here and all the languages and the fact that for the bus drivers these routes are plain as day – they probably don’t know how we could possibly be confused. As I take the buses more, it all is beginning to make more and more sense to me and it intimidates me less and less.

The other thing that is daunting for me on these bus excursions is that I can’t picture where I am going and that makes me anxious. Hmmm…any application here to the making of art? And, as you will see in my photos and captions, when I get off these buses it isn’t always at all clear which way I need to be heading to find what I’m there to see. It’s a good thing I came here early to test out my workshop ideas!

I went to Vence primarily to see the Matisse Chapel, but I discovered that there is much more to see and do there. I really liked this village a lot. When I bring the workshop group there, we will spend time walking around the town. There are a number of galleries, some look interesting. There are wonderful boulangeries – I tried out two of them – yummmm. There are a number of restaurants, but I’m thinking we will eat in St Paul de Vence…ah, well, I will discuss that with the group. The Chapel of the Rosary (Chapelle du Rosaire), also referred to as the Matisse Chapel was wonderful. I have heard that others have been underwhelmed by it, but that was not the case for me. Even though the day was overcast, so there was no sun shining through the stained glass windows, so no colors cast on opposing walls, I still found the chapel beautiful, peaceful, stunning. And I am not a religious person at all. The experience, though, was definitely spiritual. And for this workshop in Nice I have been emphasizing the simplifying of everything – our projects, our media and materials, our packing. Matisse was a master at simplification and it is so in evidence here. Unfortunately, they do not allow photography in the chapel, so the only photo I will show you is of the outside and does not show you the experience I am talking about.

I had a very interesting experience at the Matisse Chapel that will tie in with another experience later in the same day – more serendipity – funny how that theme keeps jumping up – like feet! There was a woman in the chapel who began telling us all about Matisse’s work and it became evident that she was one of the chapel’s guides, even though there seemed to be no formal tour. She spoke in French and English back and forth, saying the same things. But at first she was speaking just in French and I did understand much of it, until she turned her gaze on me and asked me a question – in French! Suddenly, I was like a deer in headlights and all knowledge of French immediately drained from my brain (maybe it pooled in my feet). Thankfully, she realized I didn’t understand, and she asked me again in English. On the back wall of the chapel are tiles with Matisse’s depiction of the stations of the cross, all reduced to black and white drawn symbols. I am not at all knowledgeable about the stations of the cross. The guide asked me which one I would like her to explain. I looked up and, because I was under pressure, just made a quick choice – #6. It is a cloth with a face drawn on it. The guide explained that when Jesus was carrying the cross a woman named Veronica gave him her veil to wipe the sweat off his face. When he did, his image was imprinted in the cloth. I didn’t know this story, and thought nothing of it. But later in the day…well, I’ll tell you that when we get there.

There is also a museum at the chapel that exhibits the vestments designed by Matisse, along with models of the chapel, and also of a stained glass window that ended up being done in a school. There are also many sketches relating to his design of all this. This is very much worth seeing and I’m looking forward to going back with the group and seeing it again.

After I left the chapel, I walked back down to the village of Vence and looked around some more. I also stopped at another boulangerie and bought a pear and almond tart – oh, it was soooo delicious. I also look forward to going back here with the group. I rushed through because I wanted to also go to the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence, and never having been to any of these places before, I had no idea about timing. So I just took a quick run through Vence and went back to the bus stop.

I took the #400 bus to St. Paul de Vence (#94 doesn’t stop there, the curt bus driver informed me with a brief shake of the head and a dismissive wave of the hand), only a 10 minute ride. But, again, the bus stop was confusing and I had to deal with this curt and dismissive bus driver twice before I knew where to get off. No matter. Nothing personal. Getting off the bus, I found a sign pointing to Fondation Maeght and headed…you guessed it…uphill. But there were no sidewalks, it was a narrow road with cars parked along one side. It didn’t seem like a place I should be walking. But I continued on, what else could I do? You will see in the photo that about half way there (I didn’t know that at the time) I stopped and took a photo behind from where I had come and in front to where I was heading. I couldn’t believe I was actually going the right way. The other photos show you how beautiful the rest of the way was, and how confusing. But I got there. The grounds and sculptures and pools and fountains are amazing. I have no photos of the inside to show you because I mistakenly thought I couldn’t take any (just had to pay 5 euros more on top of the entry fee).

Inside I had a surprise. Instead of their permanent collection, there is a special exhibit – one based on the conversation between art and philosophy over the centuries. An intriguing exhibit, it includes art works from all time, ancient past to the present. I didn’t know this right away though, as I didn’t discover any information in English until I was leaving the museum. But the wall texts were in both French and English. In one of the first rooms I came upon a work by Jim Dine that I had never seen before called “The Veronica.” Could there be a connection between this Veronica and Matisse’s Veronica on the chapel wall?

Here is what the wall text said, “What can be done to dispel the curse of Platonism? Who will restore to the realm of the image its dignity, its rights? Not the philosophers, certainly, or the theologians of the Catholic Church, who, contrary to legend, were no more comfortable with painted forms than were the adherents of the spirit of Athens or Jerusalem. the answer lay with artists themselves, who, beginning in the Middle Ages, invented a fable entirely absent from the Gospels about a young Jewish woman – Veronica – who, at the sixth station of the cross, offers her veil to Jesus to use to wipe his face, which is then imprinted on the cloth. It’s a stroke of genius on the part of the painters, a show of their metaphysical strength. An image may be holy after all. It may have legitimacy.” Then I walked into the next room and encountered art works concerning Veronica from all ages of art. I won’t even attempt to engage in this philosophical discussion here, I just want to tell you about the serendipitous occurrences, which amaze me.

The serendipity doesn’t end there. When I was in Ozolles, a friend of Margaret and Ken’s, – and mine, too, now, if I may say so – Pierre, spent a generous amount of his time and energy to write about my work. He did it in both French and English and M&K and Pierre and I had a fascinating 2 hour discussion about it. He knows a lot about philosophy and that entered his writing and discussion a great deal. So, Pierre, are you reading this? If you are, send a comment. You can even write it in French and Margaret will help me translate it. Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that I, who never considers the relation of philosophy to my work, am encountering it so much on this trip – first with you, then with Matisse, and then at Fondation Maeght. And Margaret, if Pierre isn’t reading the blog, can you please clue him in? I don’t have his email address. Pierre, you should go see this exhibit.

Now, back to my Tuesday adventure. After seeing the exhibit, I went into the cafe at the Fondation Maeght and had a really good salade Nicoise and an espresso. Then I walked back down, down, down, the hill and found my way to St. Paul de Vence. I will plan time to take the workshop group there because, even though it is quite touristy and very popular (therefore, crowded), it is worth seeing. I’ve shown you just a couple of photos here. I took the #400 bus back to Nice at a little before 5 and this time it took more than an hour and the bus was packed with lots of people standing. Rush hour? I’ll have to think about the timing when we are traveling as a group. Back in Nice I had my little dinner of wine, cheese, and bread (oh, yeah, and an apple tart – I wasn’t going to tell you because I am getting a little embarrassed about all the pastries I’m consuming), then I set to work hand writing and choosing photos to get this blog going. It’s a long one! And I’ve left out so much!! But it is now 11:30 and I can see through the doors that the sun is shining today, so enough, I’m publishing and going out!!!

Am I in the right place? One of my first sights in Vence. I wish I could show you more photos. I took several of the bus stop and surroundings - it looks like, "What the heck am I doing here?" And, of course, "Where do I go now?"

Am I in the right place? One of my first sights in Vence. I wish I could show you more photos. I took several of the bus stop and surroundings – it looks like, “What the heck am I doing here?” And, of course, “Where do I go now?”

A restaurant I recognize from the Rick Steves guide book. I must be on the right track, so I keep on walking.

A restaurant I recognize from the Rick Steves guide book. I must be on the right track, so I keep on walking.

On my way to figuring out Vence and finding the Matisse Chapel, I stopped in a boulangerie (of course) and got a snack (something yummy made with chard that is traditional around here) and was looking around for a place to eat it. Out of nowhere a French woman began talking to me - in English, she lived in the U.S. for two years - and told me about this view and how you can see Matisse's chapel from it. It is around the middle with a blue roof. This viewing area was the perfect place to sit and have my snack.

On my way to figuring out Vence and finding the Matisse Chapel, I stopped in a boulangerie (of course) and got a snack (something yummy made with chard that is traditional around here) and was looking around for a place to eat it. Out of nowhere a French woman began talking to me – in English, she lived in the U.S. for two years – and told me about this view and how you can see Matisse’s chapel from it. It is around the middle with a blue roof. This viewing area was the perfect place to sit and have my snack.

An interesting gallery with interesting work that I stumbled into as I was trying to find my way to the Matisse Chapel. Vence has a number of art galleries.

An interesting gallery with interesting work that I stumbled into as I was trying to find my way to the Matisse Chapel. Vence has a number of art galleries.

More galleries along the way. But I didn't go in. The chapel was only open 10 to 11:30, and it was already after 10. It opens again in the afternoon around 2, but I planned to be in St. Paul de Vence by then. Things do really close for lunch for at least two hours here in France - from 12 to 2 or 1 to 3 or something around those times.

More galleries along the way. But I didn’t go in. The chapel was only open 10 to 11:30, and it was already after 10. It opens again in the afternoon around 2, but I planned to be in St. Paul de Vence by then. Things do really close for lunch for at least two hours here in France – from 12 to 2 or 1 to 3 or something around those times.

Still walking. Not so sure this is the right way!

Still walking. Not so sure this is the right way!

Ave. Henri Matisse. Must be the right way!

Ave. Henri Matisse. Must be the right way!

Ah, here it is. I DID go the right way. But this is the only photo I have to show you. No photography allowed inside, unfortunately. It is as simply and unassuming inside as out, although more gloriously beautiful in its simplicity. Matisse stated, "I want those who enter my chapel to feel purified and relieved of their burdens." Do take a minute and Google this chapel and see if you can find some images, so you will better appreciate what I saw there.

Ah, here it is. I DID go the right way. But this is the only photo I have to show you. No photography allowed inside, unfortunately. It is as simply and unassuming inside as out, although more gloriously beautiful in its simplicity. Matisse stated, “I want those who enter my chapel to feel purified and relieved of their burdens.” Do take a minute and Google this chapel and see if you can find some images, so you will better appreciate what I saw there.

After visiting the Matisse Chapel, I went back to explore more of Vence. I will show you only 6 photos to give you the flavor of the experience - I took 77!!

After visiting the Matisse Chapel, I went back to explore more of Vence. I will show you only 6 photos to give you the flavor of the experience – I took 77!!

Vence: ancient, narrow street with shops.

Vence: ancient, narrow street with shops.

Another street in Vence. Tuesday was overcast all day, and it rained in the evening. Some of these photos, I realize, look a bit moody - perhaps would appear quite different on a very sunny day. I didn't really notice the weather until I looked at these photos - while exploring all day I was involved and enjoying all the new sights and experiences and the weather didn't matter at all. It did rain a little in the evening, and that might have sent me back on the bus a little earlier, but that is something there is no way of knowing. I had done a lot and was tired.

Another street in Vence. Tuesday was overcast all day, and it rained in the evening. Some of these photos, I realize, look a bit moody – perhaps would appear quite different on a very sunny day. I didn’t really notice the weather until I looked at these photos – while exploring all day I was involved and enjoying all the new sights and experiences and the weather didn’t matter at all. It did rain a little in the evening, and that might have sent me back on the bus a little earlier, but that is something there is no way of knowing. I had done a lot and was tired.

Blue door in Vence.

Blue door in Vence.

Black and grey in Vence. (Or is it green and deep browns?)

Black and grey in Vence. (Or is it green and deep browns?)

St Paul de Vence: 10 minutes by bus #400 from Vence. From the bus stop I couldn't tell which way or how far to the village, but I was looking for Fondation Maeght first, so I started walking. This photo is about halfway through my uphill climb and I felt very lost. I stopped and turned around and took this photo behind me of the way I had come - rather like bread crumbs in the forest, perhaps.

St Paul de Vence: 10 minutes by bus #400 from Vence. From the bus stop I couldn’t tell which way or how far to the village, but I was looking for Fondation Maeght first, so I started walking. This photo is about halfway through my uphill climb and I felt very lost. I stopped and turned around and took this photo behind me of the way I had come – rather like bread crumbs in the forest, perhaps.

Then I turned back around and took this photo in front of me - in the direction I was walking. That little blue sign says Fondation Maeght, but there are no sidewalks or walking areas - could this really be the right way? I keep going uphill. Just like my life.;)

Then I turned back around and took this photo in front of me – in the direction I was walking. That little blue sign says Fondation Maeght, but there are no sidewalks or walking areas – could this really be the right way? I keep going uphill. Just like my life.;)

Could this really be the right way?

Could this really be the right way?

Looks like someone's private estate. Am I trespassing? But...wait...a blue sign...

Looks like someone’s private estate. Am I trespassing? But…wait…a blue sign…

...yup, I'm in the right place...Fondation Maeght...phew! But I will only show you two more photos of the grounds outside. I thought that no one was allowed to take photos inside. I found out later that you can take photos, but you have to pay 5 euro extra on top of the 15 euro entry fee. If I had known, I would have paid it so that I could show you more. But then this post would take me all day! I think I was saved from myself!

…yup, I’m in the right place…Fondation Maeght…phew! But I will only show you two more photos of the grounds outside. I thought that no one was allowed to take photos inside. I found out later that you can take photos, but you have to pay 5 euro extra on top of the 15 euro entry fee. If I had known, I would have paid it so that I could show you more. But then this post would take me all day! I think I was saved from myself!

Fondation Maeght: grounds and sculpture.

Fondation Maeght: grounds and sculpture.

Fondation Maeght: another shot of the grounds and sculpture.

Fondation Maeght: another shot of the grounds and sculpture.

After seeing the exhibit at Fondation Maeght and eating a delicious salade Nicoise in the cafe there, I walked back down the hill to the bus station and found my way to the village of St. Paul de Vence and began to explore.

After seeing the exhibit at Fondation Maeght and eating a delicious salade Nicoise in the cafe there, I walked back down the hill to the bus station and found my way to the village of St. Paul de Vence and began to explore.

St. Paul de Vence: ancient narrow street with shops and galleries. The galleries here seemed commercial and slick, but all I did was run quickly through the city, not going in anywhere, so I will reserve judgement until I get a closer look. But the architecture and history underneath the commercial and touristy stuff is astonishing.

St. Paul de Vence: ancient narrow street with shops and galleries. The galleries here seemed commercial and slick, but all I did was run quickly through the city, not going in anywhere, so I will reserve judgement until I get a closer look. But the architecture and history underneath the commercial and touristy stuff is astonishing.

Another street in St Paul de Vence with shops & galleries.

Another street in St Paul de Vence with shops & galleries.

And I will leave you with just one more shot of St. Paul de Vence. I took about 77 photos here, too, and I wish I could show all of them to you. But for this post, this is it.

And I will leave you with just one more shot of St. Paul de Vence. I took about 77 photos here, too, and I wish I could show all of them to you. But for this post, this is it.

Jane Beckwith
May 19th, 2014 at 4:12 am

Debi I am bringing an elderly nun to see the chapel this June. We will be staying in Nice. Does the 400 bus stop close to the chapel. I do not want the sister to have to walk too far! Ought we look for a taxi or take a private taxi from Nice to the chapel. I appreciate your advice. Jane

May 21st, 2014 at 12:08 am

It’s a pretty long walk from the bus stop to the chapel, and it’s uphill, too. I recommend that you take a taxi. I have no experience with the taxis, so I’m unable to give a more specific suggestion on that. Hope you both enjoy the chapel. I loved it. Do write again and tell me about your experience.

Martha Clancy
October 18th, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I really like your photos of doors and roads and pathways, all favorite images of mine! Thanks, and keep on exploring! Martha

Diane Sullivan
October 18th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Great photos Debi! i love the one of the blue door in Vence.I hope you get to check out Vallauris, maybe with Carl? I am so enjoying your blog!!!

Vicki
October 16th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

What an amazing adventure. I so admire your ability to push through your fears and keep on truck’n! I love the blue door in Vence, and the red mat on the steps adds just that extra touch of color. You must be excited that Carl is on his way. Enjoy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Debi Pendell Artist by debipendell.com